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How to capture spatial video with the iPhone 15 Pro (there's a trick)

Struggling with your iPhone 15 Pro's camera settings? Learn the secret to activating spatial video and transform your recordings instantly.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor
Apple Vision Pro with battery on the floor
Jason Hiner/ZDNET

I had a plan. As plans go, it was rather simple. I was going to ask my wife to let me borrow her iPhone 15 Pro Max (I still have an iPhone 12) so I could test out shooting some spatial videos. I don't yet have Apple's Vision Pro, but my Meta Quest 3 will soon be getting the ability to play them back (stay tuned for that as a how-to).

Also: I used the Apple Vision Pro for my 8-hour work day, and it left me wanting more

But things didn't work out as planned. I did borrow my wife's phone. I made sure it was running iOS 17.2. I opened the Camera app, selected video, and… there was no spatial video icon.

If this happens to you, it turns out there's a trick that will fix it.

How to enable spatial video on an iPhone 15 Pro 

The process isn't hard, but for a company that makes its name on providing intuitive solutions, Apple does not make this intuitive. You can't just pull down the search bar in Settings and search for "spatial". That results in a big, empty, white screen.

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

That's okay. Scroll on down through the Settings app until you get to the Camera app:

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

Now, tap on the Formats menu option:

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

There's one more step. Scroll down until you find Spatial Video for Apple Vision Pro, and switch it on. The one on this phone is already switched on, because I figured out this process before I started writing this article.

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

See what I mean, though? The word "Spatial" is in that entry. Why wouldn't it show up in the search bar?

In any case, you're all set. It's time to record a spatial video.

How to start a spatial video recording

Now, when you go back into the Camera app and select the Video mode, you'll see the little goggles icon. When you're not in spatial video mode, the goggles icon just shows a white outline. But once spatial video has been enabled, the goggles icon will show as a bright yellow circle.

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

As you can see from the second picture, spatial videos like to be taken in landscape orientation. In this screenshot, I'm not actually pointing at anything, but the video is ready to be taken once there's a well-lit subject in the viewfinder.

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

Some tips for quality spatial video recordings

Our dog Pixel wasn't entirely sure why, but treats were raining from the sky in the big food room today. First, I threw a treat across the room, and then my wife gave him one when he turned around and romped over to her. And the treats kept flying. This was the best game. At least until the treats ran out.

Also: I've tried Vision Pro and other top XR headsets and here's the one most people should buy

While we love our little dog, we had an ulterior motive for appealing to his food-seeker instincts. We wanted him to pose for some spatial videos, and boy did the boy turn in a fine performance. 

We decided to do this in the kitchen. My wife got down to Pix-a-bear level. She mounted her iPhone 15 Pro Max on a selfie stick/mini-tripod and did her best to center the pup in the frame. Given that we were trying to capture 3D videos, we needed to show a sense of depth.

My wife and I planted ourselves in one corner of the kitchen. Then I tossed treats to the opposite corner, a distance roughly 10 feet away. We then commenced spatial videoing, with the dog ranging in distance from 10 feet away to less than a wet nose away.

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

While filming, the iPhone provides a level indicator, which is helpful, but doesn't always survive an encounter with an 8-pound Yorkie-poo.

When filming is done

When you're done filming, the videos are stored in your Photos app. I found that my Mac's Photos app didn't recognize any videos as spatial videos, but the iPhone does have a Spatial Videos media type and seems to have recognized the videos we took.

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

If you have Apple's Vision Pro, you'll want to look for your spatial videos in your Photos app as well. I don't have a Vision Pro, so I'm using the Xcode simulator here. As you can see, there is a Spatial option in the Photos app, although the simulator doesn't appear to recognize the spatial videos in my iCloud photo library.

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

When you do have a Vision Pro, the videos are displayed in a square aspect ratio, in 1080p resolution. Mine would look something like this:

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

Keep in mind that spatial videos are also viewable as standard 2D videos. Seen in the Vision Pro simulator, here's what that would look like:

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

I told you he was photogenic! Stay tuned. We'll have more coverage of spatial videos on the Vision Pro. I'll be back soon to show you how you can transfer spatial videos from your iPhone to your far-less-expensive-than-the-Vision-Pro Meta Quest 3.

Do you have a Vision Pro? Do you have a Meta Quest 3? Do you have an iPhone 15 Pro or Pro Max? Have you taken and viewed spatial videos? Let us know in the comments below.

You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to subscribe to my weekly update newsletter on Substack, and follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.

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